The learning curve of a patient's mum

By last year being in my seventies had become enjoyable. We could choose how to spend our time and money and the grandchildren had reached the age of being easier to manage as long as we could sustain the physical energy. Then a cloud appeared on our fair horizon, our son wasn’t well. Words were bandied about by relatives, friends, the GP: giddiness, vertigo, he fell downstairs, leans against walls, middle ear infection... After two courses of unsuccessful medication he saw an ENT consultant. His initial comment was, ‘You haven’t got vertigo’. There followed an MRI scan and, a week later, the fateful words, ‘You’ve got a brain tumour called an acoustic neuroma. It’s benign but big and it needs removing immediately’.

A very subdued daughter-in-law, trying to sound brave and matter of fact, gave me this news on the phone the same evening. My son, she said, had come out of the consulting room and collapsed in tears. I relayed the facts to my husband and expected to cry too but tears wouldn’t come; instead there was a brick inside my chest and a black cloud around my head. I experienced the physical sense of ‘feeling sick with worry’.

When your children are little you can hose off the mud, patch up their knees, pick them up and cuddle them; when they are 46 years old, over 6 feet tall, and have children of their own what can you do? My son was really ill and in a very dark space. As his mother, my instincts screamed to be there, to comfort him, to run or drive around frantically running errands and organising routines. But he is adult; he has a wife, a home and a lifestyle that are not my province or responsibility.

The spotlight was on my son. I had to learn to take backstage, to act as the producer directed and, to my frustration, the producer of this particular family drama was not me! I did not decree how often I would have the grandchildren, their parents did. I had to learn to be available when needed but not to insist I help when not needed.

Throughout his hospitalisation and convalescence he did it his way while I fretted away at maintaining a low profile and drew comfort from the information and wisdom of BANA.

My son is now back at work and well on the road to a great recovery. He did it his way, not mine and, do you know what? I’m really proud of him. Well, after all, I am his mum!

Proud to be a Backstage Mum

2 Replies

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  • What a lovely article. I was 35 when I had my AN removed and as I wasn't married, had to rely on my wonderful parents. I dread to think what they must have gone through when I was in surgery. It was easy for me - I was asleep! - but I know how they paced around for over 6 hours. I certainly couldn't have got to where Iam today without their love and support.

    Ian

  • Well done Marilyn. I experienced similar feelings when my son was fighting depression.

    Many years ago a lady in her eighties told me of her worries about her son, then in his forties, & said "you never stop worrying about your children, whatever age they are"